September is National Cholesterol Education Month

OSWEGO – The Oswego County Health Department encourages residents to observe National Cholesterol Education Month this September and have their cholesterol tested.

“Many people do not have their cholesterol checked regularly and now is a good time to get started,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang. “It is very important for people to know their numbers and take steps to lower their cholesterol if it is high.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about one out of every six adult Americans has high blood cholesterol as defined by total blood levels that exceed 200 ml/dl. In the United States, more women than men have high cholesterol.

High cholesterol leads to a build-up of plaque that hardens and narrows the arteries. This can reduce blood supply to the heart or brain, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol levels also appear to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is needed for the production of hormones and vitamin D. However, too much cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for coronary artery disease, heart attacks and strokes.

Huang added, “There are generally no symptoms of high cholesterol. Your physician can do a blood test, called a ‘lipoprotein profile’ to test your levels. The good news is that with simple lifestyle choices, you can lower your high cholesterol and make a difference in your heart and vascular health.”

The Oswego County Health Department advises residents to take these simple and inexpensive steps to reduce high cholesterol levels:
Eat a healthy diet. Reduce saturated fat (animal fats), trans fats (hydrogenated oils), and dietary cholesterol (animal and dairy foods), which tend to raise cholesterol levels. Other types of fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (plant-based foods) can actually lower blood cholesterol levels. Eating fiber can also help lower cholesterol.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can raise your bad cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help lower your cholesterol.

Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help maintain a health weight and lower cholesterol. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Don’t smoke. Smoking injures blood vessels and speeds up the hardening of arteries. Smoking greatly increases a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke.

Treat high cholesterol. People with existing cardiovascular disease or diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease. Several medications may help lower cholesterol. In addition to lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medications to lower your high cholesterol.

For more information about cholesterol, talk with your healthcare provider or call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3587.